This is a for those of you who don’t like critiques…that hate seeing their art mentally torn to shreds by another artist, for the artist who then questions their choice of occupation, who feels like they are lousy at what they love. I was one of those artists and in 2011 I received critiques that impacted my art like nothing else. It was in a Sci-fi/fantasy art show in Tempe, Arizona. At the time I made a post about it on a different blog that has since been shut down so here is a portion of that blog:
“Back while I was in college, I took a Basic drawing class. This class had a teacher by the name of Leon Parson, and he showed no mercy when it came to critiquing our drawings. There were days I actually went home in tears after hearing one of his critiques, he was not easy to please, and I wasn’t the only one that felt his wrath. For our final he gave us a hand written test of what we learned. I don’t remember how well I did overall but I do remember one question on that test. Did you change your Major? I later found out that why he was so harsh was because he wanted to filter out the students that couldn’t handle the cruel reality of an occupation in art. I remember looking at that question with my pencil in hand and thinking “Jerk” and with a smirk on my face I written the answer “No”.
Twelve years later to this weekend I had my art on display at Leprecon in Tempe AZ. And to my luck I got a personal critique from one of the guests of honor artist Darrel k. Sweet. And he showed me no mercy! He gave me a critique that would make my old professor proud and then some! I was told to draw more, to use references, to see with my mind and not my eyes, and pointed out all the flaws in my art. I drove home in shock and stupor as I felt what he told me tattoo itself to my brain. It wasn’t at all what I expected but I knew I needed to hear it. It was one of those moments where I had to make a decision. Whether to keep going in art, and improve myself by pushing myself harder. Or to throw in the towel and give up.
Later that evening I went back to the convention to have my art critiqued by the other guest of honor John Picacio. His critique was different from Darrel K. Sweet’s. He spoke of similar things but he asked me what I wanted to do with my art, and to tell the truth I did not have a straight answer for him. The next day I took my sketch books in for a critique (since the art I had on display was my portfolio and was already torn apart by critiques) and showed them my drawings. They spent almost an hour talking to me and each other about what I can do to help my art. I was told from both artist I had to choose a direction with my art.
So once again I had to decide. That stupid question I had to answer 12 years ago reemerged in my mind. I know my art isn’t the greatest, but I also know it’s not the worst and it can become something more if I work at it. So once again I will answer that question. Did I change my major-my choice of occupation-did I give up my dream? And with a smirk on my face I type the answer-NO!”
So now it’s 2015 and it has taken me a long time. But for the first time ever, I sold two Original pieces of art from art shows! To see that empty wall space when I walked in brought me to tears. I have never been so proud of myself before! And to make things even better, a guest artist Jeff Sturgeon at Norwescon, had so many good things to say and had so little to critique I just stood there giggling and having a big silly grin on my face. He even went out of his way to introduce me to an art director from another art show.
My art isn’t perfect and I still need to keep working on it, but it doesn’t need an over haul anymore! And I now feel like the artist I wanted to be. And it’s all because I accepted the critiques I received as gifts. Something I didn’t put into my old blog was what Darrel K. Sweet told me at the end on the convention. “Don’t give up, there are not a lot of artists like you out there.” Not his exact words but it was the only compliment he gave me, and it meant A LOT to me. I have come to a conclusion that if you get such a stern critique it’s because the artist sees potential in your work and wants it to grow and bloom.
I want to put in a very special thank you to Darrel K. Sweet (may he rest in peace), and John Picacio for their critiques those years ago, you won’t believe how badly I needed them! And a big thank you goes out to Jeff Sturgeon, who triggered this joy I have been feeling!
So for those artists that find themselves getting merciless critiques from their Professors and/or other artists and feel like it’s too hard to handle know this, yes, the world of art is hard to handle. But every critique you get is a gift, nothing more, whether to except that gift or not is up to you. And the more critiques you get the stronger you will be in your persistence. Never think that the artist or professor is critiquing harshly to bring you down, because they want you to succeed.
I am so glad I said “NO” to that question. It feels so good!